Sharon Salzberg: Faith and Doubt

Sharon Salzberg

This week on the Wisdom podcast we spoke with Sharon Salzberg, a renowned figure in the American Buddhist and mindfulness community. Sharon first encountered Buddhism in college, where the Buddha’s teaching of suffering spoke deeply to her and led her to begin her Buddhist path. About to leave for India to further explore Buddhism, she encountered Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and he gave her some advice for her journey.

In India, she went on her first meditation retreat: one of the historic ten-day retreats with S.N. Goenka. It was on this retreat that she met Joseph Goldstein and Ram Dass. She describes the exciting and meaningful experience of being on that retreat, and the impact it had on her. One of the most influential parts of the retreat was Goenka’s emphasis on equanimity.

Sharon reflects on faith as a part of Buddhist practice, and the importance of having an intelligent faith in one’s teacher. She also shares her thoughts on the wisdom of doubt, and doubt as an integral part of faith. She also shares what was the most inspiring to her as she was practicing in India in those early days, including knowing the teacher Dipa Ma.

After coming back to the U.S., Sharon started teaching with Joseph Goldstein and Jack Kornfield, and together they founded the Insight Meditation Society. She tells us what it was like to be 23 years old and founding the one of the first major vipassana meditation centers in the United States. She reflects on similarities and differences between people who came to IMS when it started in the 1970s and people coming today. She also shares her thoughts on the way that science and meditation practices are now coming together to provide new insight into the human experience.

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Sharon Salzberg, a co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society, has practiced Buddhist meditation since 1971 and has been teaching worldwide since 1974. She is the author of Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience, Lovingkindness, and A Heart As Wide As The World. She lives in New York City.